Conference Coverage

SGLT2 inhibitors morph into HF drugs



– The oral sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors are the focus of a slew of ongoing phase 3 clinical trials in patients with symptomatic heart failure but no diabetes.

Dr. Ashkay S. Desai is director of the cardiomyopathy and heart failure program at Brigham and Women's Hospital and a cardiologist at Harvard Medical School, Boston Bruce Jancin/MDedge News

Dr. Akshay S. Desai

“We have a wide array of exciting opportunities to modify cardiovascular risk with agents that were initially developed for the therapy of diabetes. I think we’re increasingly moving to an age where these agents are actually cardiovascular drugs that happen to lower blood glucose, rather than the other way around, which is how they were initially conceived,” Akshay S. Desai, MD, observed at the Annual Cardiovascular Conference at Snowmass sponsored by the American College of Cardiology.

These are each multi-thousand-patient trials, variously due to be completed in 2019-2021. Of note, several of them are restricted to nondiabetic patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), a common, serious, understudied, extremely high-cost disease sorely in need of effective pharmacotherapies, added Dr. Desai, director of the cardiomyopathy and heart failure program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a cardiologist at Harvard Medical School, Boston.

All of these placebo-controlled trials have as their composite primary endpoint cardiovascular death and heart failure hospitalization.

EMPEROR-Preserved has randomized 4,126 patients with HFpEF to empagliflozin (Jardiance) or placebo, while EMPEROR-Reduced involves 2,850 patients with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF). Both are due to be completed in 2020.

In addition, the DELIVER trial is focused on 4,700 HFpEF patients randomized to dapagliflozin (Farxiga) or placebo, while Dapa-HF employs the SGLT2 inhibitor in a study of 4,500 patients with HFrEF. Dapa-HF will be completed by late 2019. DELIVER wraps up in mid-2021.

Again, remarkably, none of the participants in these trials has diabetes. All have symptomatic heart failure with elevated N-terminal pro b-type natriuretic peptide levels. The impetus for this ongoing round of studies was the impressive reduction in the risk of hospitalization for heart failure seen in the pivotal trials that earned the SGLT2 inhibitors empagliflozin, canagliflozin (Invokana), and dapagliflozin marketing approval for treatment of type 2 diabetes from the Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Desai called attention to a new systematic review and meta-analysis of cardiovascular outcomes in randomized, placebo-controlled trials of SGLT2 inhibitors in more than 34,000 patients with type 2 diabetes. The conclusion: These drugs impressively reduced the risk of heart failure hospitalization by 32% in patients with a baseline history of heart failure and similarly by 29% in those with no such history. Also notable was the 45% reduction in the risk of progression of renal disease regardless of whether patients had atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (Lancet. 2019 Jan 5;393[10166]:31-9).

Only one of the ongoing round of phase 3 trials of SGLT2 inhibitors in heart failure is being conducted in patients with comorbid type 2 diabetes: the 4,000-subject SOLOIST-WHF trial. This study features the investigational dual inhibitor of SGLT1 and 2, sotagliflozin, with a primary outcome of cardiovascular death or heart failure hospitalization. Results are expected in early 2021.


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